Penne Pasta with Vodka Sauce

So today I’m faced with a challenge.  We went to a new Italian restaurant for supper the other night, and it was wonderful—Salt & Pepper in the new Worthington shopping plaza on Oregon Pike, about halfway between Roseville Road and Landis Valley Road in Manheim Township.  The best Italian food we have had since we moved here, other than homemade.penne

I had delicious linguine and clams in red sauce, E. had an excellent chicken Parmesan and spaghetti, and M. had spaghetti in vodka sauce, a light and creamy red sauce.  It was an excellent meal.

The challenge, then, is to recreate the spaghetti in vodka sauce and make it even better than the restaurant’s version.  I liked it, but I wished it had had a bit more of a spicy bite. I like my red sauces to have a little punch.  Vodka sauce, on the other hand, is not particularly robust, relying on subtle but complex flavors mixed to perfection.

So what to do?

What I’ve done is replaced black pepper with white pepper, minced shallots instead of garlic, caramelized red onions instead of minced yellow ones, and a bit of sweet paprika and more red-pepper flakes than what most recipes call for. These changes add complexity to the dish.  One further adjustment is that I use Absolut Peppar as the vodka in the recipe, but that is a personal vanity.  Most any good vodka will do, but I truly like the layer of black pepper flavor it imparts.  My favorite vodka is Blair and Brown, a true potato vodka made right here in Pennsylvania, but I’d rather savor that on the rocks with a bit of tonic and lime. Perhaps together?

Try this recipe at home.  Use penne or linguine instead of spaghetti, and whole-wheat pastas will add a bit more bite to the dish.  I’m certain you’ll like it, and will serve it to guests.  It’s a true winner, sure to garner oohs and ahs from your friends and naysayers who think that vodka sauce is a bridge too far.  That’s a bridge I willingly cross.

Penne with Vodka Sauce

Ingredients:

1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes (preferably San Marzano) , drained, liquid reserved
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, minced (about 1/4 cup)

1  tablespoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoon tomato paste
2 medium shallots, minced

1 teaspoon sweet Spanish paprika
1/4-1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
kosher salt and freshly ground WHITE pepper (much better than store-bought fine-ground)
1/3 cup vodka (try it with Absolut Peppar)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound penne pasta
2 whole sprigs fresh basil, plus 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Preparation:
1. Puree half of tomatoes until smooth. Dice remaining tomatoes into 1/2-inch pieces, discarding cores. Combine pureed and diced tomatoes in liquid measuring cup (you should have about 1 2/3 cups). Add reserved liquid to equal 2 cups.
2. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. To caramelize the onion, add onion and brown sugar and cook over a low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are light golden brown and soft, about 15 minutes. Add tomato paste, and cook, stirring constantly about three minutes; add shallots, paprika, and pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
3. Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Remove pan from heat and add vodka. Return pan to medium-high heat and simmer briskly until the alcohol is cooked off, 8 to 10 minutes; stir frequently and lower heat to medium if simmering becomes too vigorous. Remove the basil sprigs and stir in cream and cook until hot, about 1 minute.
4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta. Cook until just shy of al dente, then drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water, and transfer pasta back to Dutch oven. Add sauce to pasta and toss over medium heat until pasta absorbs some of sauce, 1 to 2 minutes, adding reserved cooking water if sauce is too thick. Stir in the minced basil and adjust seasoning with salt. Divide among pasta bowls, garnish with chopped basil, and serve immediately.

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Fabulous Summer Salads

So.  Summer.summer salads

It’s hot out there; who wants to cook?  Not me.  So what I worked on this week are summer salads.

Ho hum, right?  Potato salad, cole slaw, macaroni salad?  Same old same old.

Not this guy.

I came up with two wonderful new recipes inspired by other, pre-existing recipes and worked them over into wonderful new dishes with my (and Ellen’s) personal twists to make a balmy  summer evening absolutely sing with new flavors.

Standard ingredients, new applications.  Here’s what we’ve got.

Among the things upon which Ellen and I agree is that we don’t much like creamy potato salads; you know the ones–potatoes, celery, mayonnaise, salt and pepper–not much about which to get excited.

Enter Eating Well magazine.  Eating well is something I excel at, although “well” is a bit of a stretch. The magazine means healthy; to me, “eating well” generally means enjoying what we’ve made to the extreme.  In this case, I’ll stick to (relatively) healthy–no mayo in this potato salad, just a beautious blend of herbs and spices that make a summer day feel like a celebration.  This month’s issue of Eating Well features a choice of potato salads that are different from the norm almost as much as they are different from each other.

Our choice from this page was a luscious Greek potato salad with (or, in our case, without) beautiful Kalamata olives (Ellen doesn’t like olives, so we left them out, but I love them, so I say “put ’em in!”   Here’s the plan:

The second recipe is a variation on a Mexican bean salad, with a tangy cumin/lime dressing that is similar to one that has long been one of our favorites.  It’s like a bean salad I wrote about a couple of years ago, but with a twist in the dressing.  The dressing started with the Food Network’s Ellie Krieger, but I’ve worked it over to my liking, and I sure do like it.  Better, although the original is delicious.

I think you’ll like both recipes.  We served them with grilled chicken and freshly torn romaine lettuce and the same dressing as in the beans.  Fabulous!

Greek Potato Salad

Ingredients:

2½ pounds red or Yukon Gold potatoes

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/3 cup reduced-fat Feta cheese, crumbled

¼ cup Kalamata olives, quartered (optional!  — NOT!)

1 medium cucumber, seeded and quartered and diced

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

¼ cup finely chopped shallot

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

Scrub and dice the potatoes to a ½-inch dice and place on a steamer basket above one inch of water in a large pot; steam until tender, 12-15 minutes. Place the potato dice on a baking sheet, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and let cool for 15 minutes.  Then gently place them in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl,  whisk together olive oil, vinegar, shallot, mustard, and salt and pepper.  Add the tomatoes, Feta, olives (or not ;), cucumber, and oregano to the potatoes, then drizzle the dressing into the bowl. Toss gently, so as not to break up the potatoes, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Place the bowl in the fridge for at least two hours, then serve.

Mexican Black Bean and Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

2 cans black beans, rinsed well

4 fresh San Marzano (or Roma) plum tomatoes, ½-inch dice

1 orange (or yellow) bell pepper, seeded and pith removed, ½-inch dice

1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles, drained

½ red onion, diced

1 10-oz package of frozen corn, thawed, rinsed, and drained

¼ cup chopped cilantro

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon freshly grated lime zest

1 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper (more if you like your salads tangy!)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon finely ground white pepper

Preparation:

Place the first seven ingredients (beans through cilantro) in a large bowl.  In a separate, smaller bowl, add the zest, juice, cumin, chipotle pepper, salt, and white pepper, and stir to mix well.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the dressing bowl whisking constantly to create a mixed dressing that thickens as you add the oil.  Pour over the salad ingredients and toss to coat the salad well.  Serve immediately to get all the flavor from the tomatoes and cilantro, or chill for later serving.

Both these recipes are tasty and reasonably healthy, and go well with anything grilled.  Try ‘em both!

Cedar-Plank Grilled Salmon

Summer season.  Grilling.  pacific-rim-cedar-plank-salmon-ssDon’t want to heat up the kitchen any more than is necessary.  So, when company is coming to town and dinner for ten is in order, and half of the guests don’t eat meat (but will eat fish), what’s the imperative?

Why grilled salmon, of course!

Have you ever grilled a big piece of salmon on a cedar plank?  No?  You haven’t lived.  Juicy, smoky, crispy, full of flavor, and just rocking with Omega 3s (I just point that out because at my age I have to be careful just what I put in my body (LOL).

The reality is, I don’t much like fish, any fish.  Can’t say why; I never did like seafood beyond shellfish, but over the years I have learned to like salmon enough to find recipes that I can make and like.  Like my friend Jim Coleman’s Mustard-crusted salmon with shallots and white wine.  And wild salmon gently poached in white wine, pickling spices and black pepper with dill-yogurt sauce.

And now, after experimenting with recipes and techniques, I’ve finally come up with a version of Seattle’s famous cedar-planked grilled salmon that I can say is worthy of my posting here (thanks, of course, to Cooks’ Illustrated, which, if you’ve read this space, know is my bible of cooking technique).

Cedar-plank grilled salmon on the barbecue. I think it has changed my mind about fish.  This is the best piece of fish I’ve ever eaten, and I’m happy to report that I actually made it myself.  It’s slightly Asian in its feel, and it goes incredibly well with quick-sauteed spinach and garlic and a Thai version of my legendary (according to me) cold sesame noodle salad.

So here is my latest adaptation of a published recipe, from Cooks Illustrated to my kitchen to yours.

Enjoy!

Cedar-Plank Grilled Salmon

Ingredients:

1 2½-foot x 6-inch unfinished cedar plank (courtesy of Lowe’s Home Improvement)

2 cups white wine

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1½ tablespoons rice vinegar (buy from an Asian market, not the grocery store)

1 tablespoon dark toasted sesame seed oil (also from the Asian market)

½ teaspoon hot chili oil

1/3 cup light soy sauce

¼ cup chopped chives

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (from the root)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2½ – 3-pound salmon fillet (one piece, head end is best–I got mine at Costco)

Preparation:

  1. Soak the cedar plank for at least an hour in room-temperature water and 2 cups white wine. Fully submerge the plank in the water; weight down if necessary.
  2. Mix together the vinegar, oils, soy sauce, chives, ginger, and garlic in a 1-gallon zipper-close bag. Roll the salmon fillet small enough to fit into the bag. Zip the bag, turn it over a few times to mix and coat the salmon, and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, up to but no more than an hour.
  3. Preheat an outdoor grill to medium heat. Place the plank on the grates. The plank is ready when it starts to smoke.
  4. Place the salmon fillet in the plank and discard the bag and marinade. Close the cover and grill for 20-25 minutes, until the fish is done (when you can flake it with a fork).
  5. Remove the salmon from the grill, cover loosely with foil for 5 minutes, then cut into serving-size portions and serve immediately.

You can make an extra half-batch of the marinade, set aside, and serve in small dipping bowls with the salmon. It is loaded with flavor.

If you want the Thai version of the Sesame Noodles, search on this site for that recipe, then add 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce to the sauce recipe, and julienne broccoli stems, 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (Thai basil is best), and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro to the noodles before adding the sauce.  It’s a nice change of pace, and will win raves.

Turkey Burgers With a Surprise

We don’t eat red meat.  But you knew that.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 So when cookout season rolls around, burgers become a production, and what a production these burgers are!  Full of veggies and flavor, and if you serve them on crusty artisan rolls with thick slices of tomato, Boston lettuce, and a slather of homemade mayonnaise, well then, who needs beef! Not me!  Try these.  I think you’ll be wonderfully surprised!

Turkey Burgers with Zucchini and Carrot

Ingredients:

1 pound ground turkey

1 medium zucchini, grated

1 medium carrot, grated

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

¾ teaspoon dried thyme

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 egg

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 slices crusty bread or 4 artisan rolls

4 small leaves Boston lettuce

1 large slicing tomato, sliced thick

1 red onion, sliced

For the mayonnaise:

  • 1-1/4 cup of light olive oil, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 1 lemon, juiced

Preparation:

Heat broiler. In large bowl, combine turkey, zucchini, carrot, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, and egg. Form into 4 patties

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the patties, turning once, until no pink remains, 4-5 minutes preside.

Meanwhile, place the bread on a baking sheet and brush with the remaining olive oil. Broil until golden brown and crisp, about 1½ minutes.

Transfer the bread to individual plates. Slather the bread with the mayonnaise. Top with the lettuce, tomato, onion, and burgers.

For the mayonnaise:

  • Place the egg, 1/4 cup of olive oil, mustard powder, and salt in a mixing bowl, blender, or food processor. Mix thoroughly.
  • While the food processor or blender is running (or while mixing in a bowl with a stick blender),  slowly drizzle in the remaining cup of olive oil.
  • After you’ve added all the oil and the mixture has emulsified, add lemon juice to taste, stirring gently with a spoon to incorporate.

Where’s the Beef Beef Stew

I’m officially embarrassed.astew

I’m preparing to cook dinner tonight for my in-laws, and my beloved is out of town, spending a frighteningly well-deserved weekend at the beach with her best friend, knitting and bird watching and beach walking, and ice-cream eating (and heaven only knows what else), and I’m planning to make a recipe from my mother-in-law’s recipe box, a recipe I’ve made dozens of times; it’s maybe my favorite recipe from my wife’s recipe box

So, because I love the recipe so much, I wrote about it in my column a couple of years back, then went looking for the recipe on this site, because the recipe card is worn to the point of not being so readable.

And so, I discovered that this recipe, perhaps one of my all-time favorites, is nowhere to be found on this site. One can Google it, one can search  for it in the newspaper’s archives, or one could come over here and try to decipher the recipe card.

Or one could read it right now. Here. Where it ought to be.

This is beef stew.  Simple, straightforward, and oh, so yummy, that it is likely to become your go-to beef stew recipe of all times.

But because we don’t eat red meat around here any more, I’ve adapted the recipe to our own liking, using chicken thighs instead of beef. Weird, huh?   Okay, let’s call it chicken-thigh stew.  But it’s so hearty that you’ll think of it as beef stew with a difference.

So what I’m going to do here is to re-publish the column I wrote for the paper, and let you see the whole reconstruction plan.  If you want the real beef stew recipe, read through the column to the end, or skip to the bottom for the original.  Either way, it’s a winner.

From the Lancaster Sunday News

A Family Favorite Gets Reimagined, Renamed

Posted: Sunday, January 9, 2011 12:06 am | Updated: 11:59 pm, Wed Sep 11, 2013.

It’s just a little tin box. You probably have one in your kitchen.

But oh, the treasures inside.

The box, adorned with homey images from a simpler time, is stuffed full of 3×5 index cards that Ellen got from her mother. On these cards – faded with age, occasionally smudged with gravy, handwriting made gauzy by the heat and humidity of a working kitchen – is a treasury of recipes collected over decades from friends and family and handed down from generation to generation.

The box contains an amazing range of tastes – from “Adele’s Cereal” to “Ham, Cheese, and Potato Casserole,” to “Porcupine Meat Balls” to “Zucchini Chocolate Cake”. Many of the recipes are from that simpler time, when “fat” was what “healthy” babies were, and when the family cook had most of the day to plan and execute the evening meal, including a loaf of fresh-baked bread.

That’s why this particular recipe caught my eye, and eventually my fancy. It reminded me of meals from my childhood. It was called “Marge Mason Stew.” My mother-in-law’s neighbor many years ago, Marge had created the perfect beef stew recipe – comfort-food good, and very simple. But more to the point, it can be adapted to almost any taste, including for folks who don’t eat red meat, like my family. Having made, and played with, the recipe dozens of times, I now use turkey or chicken thigh meat as a replacement for fatty beef cubes. This produces a stew that is almost identical in flavor and texture to beef stew, lower in fat and totally satisfying. And in a busy world, this recipe is perfect for a slow cooker.

But since this is now turkey stew, and I’ve added a couple of ingredients Marge didn’t have in her original recipe, I can no longer, in good faith, call it “Marge Mason Stew.” Now we call it …

MARGE SIMPSON STEW

1 1/2 pounds boneless turkey thigh meat, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

3 tablespoons whole-wheat flour

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

3 red or Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed

3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped

3/4 cup red wine

1/3 cup ketchup

1/2 cup frozen peas

Preheat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat.

Reduce vegetable broth in a saucepan until only 1 cup remains.

Place the flour, salt, pepper and ginger in a large food-storage bag, shake well, then add half the turkey cubes to the bag. Close the bag, and shake well until the turkey cubes are coated with the flour mixture. Place the flour-coated cubes into the pot and stir until they are fully browned and firm to the touch, about 10 minutes. Remove the meat cubes to a bowl.

Repeat with the remaining meat, adding more oil if necessary.

Return the original batch to the pot, add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Then add the broth, and 1/2 cup of wine, bring to a boil, and stir to deglaze the pot. Then add the herbs and ketchup. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

Add the onions, carrots, potatoes and remaining wine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for an additional hour, adding the peas in the last 15 minutes. Serve when the potatoes are tender.

To make this stew in a slow cooker, brown the meat in a heavy pan, deglaze the pan with the wine, place the meat and the glaze in the crock, cover with the remaining ingredients, and cook on the low setting for 8 hours.

Also, double the recipe. It gets better in the fridge.

Marge Mason Stew

Ingredients:aHeartyBeefStew

1 pound stew beef (beef tips are best)

4 tablespoons whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons ground ginger

1 can beef consomme

2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/4 teaspoon each dried basil, dried thyme, paprika

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped carrots

4 baby red potatoes, quartered

3/4 cup red wine

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/3 cup ketchup

kosher salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Cut meat into 1/2-inch cubes. Prepare a large plastic bag with flour, salt, pepper, ginger. Place half the meat in the bag, toss to coat, and brown in batches in a large, heavy-bottom stew pot to sear. Remove from the pot, repeat with the remaining meat, and set aside

Add the consomme and garlic to the pot and simmer, stirring to remove the brown bits from the bottom of the pot.  Then add 1/2 cup wine, herbs, tomato paste,  and ketchup, and stir well to mix.  Simmer for 1.5 hours.  Add the onions, carrots, potatoes and the remaining wine. Taste and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for another hour.

Serve immediately.

My Favorite Potato Kugel

I’ve been asked on numerous occasions to post a killer kugel recipe.  13bees-sweet-potato-kugelOkay.  It being Passover and all, it only seems right that I put out there the kugel I’m making for this year’s holiday.  I found this recipe online, and adjusted it to my personal liking.  I’m making two this year, our pal Marcy being at less than 100 percent, and what could be better for a great friend than making her a kugel?  Not much that I can think of.

This is a kugel of the savory variety, not a dessert kugel. It contains carrots and parsley, and lots of caramelized onions.  MMMMMMM…I’ll not linger on the words here, because I know you want to get to it, and actually, so do I.  It’s six am Pesach morning, and I’ve got to get to market.  Here’s the recipe:

Golden Potato Kugel

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chopped parsley

4 medium sweet (Vidalia-type) onions

2 tablespoons Spanish paprika

1/2 cup onion-infused olive oil (see note)
6 eggs
2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon fine-ground white pepper

1 cup carrots, peeled and shredded
4 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
3/4 cup matzoh meal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preparation:

Mince the parsley to a coarse consistency; then place in a large mixing bowl.  Halve, then slice the onions about a half-inch thick; Heat a large enamel-coated saute pan, add 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp olive oil, and add three onions and the paprika over medium-low heat  them). Grate the remaining onion and the carrot through the fine holes on a box grater, then place in the large bowl. Add the parsley, eggs, salt and pepper and mix well.

Peel the potatoes and place in bowl of cold water until you are ready to shred them. Don’t shred them until the onions are all caramelized. If it looks like it will take a while for the onions to finish, put the covered mixing bowl in the fridge. When the onions are browned, set them aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Shred the potatoes in a food processor or a box grater and immediately mix with the other ingredients. Add the matzo meal, baking powder, caramelized onions and the remaining olive oil and mix thoroughly. Spray two 8×8 or 9×9 baking dishes with olive oil spray; scoop in the mixture, smoothing off the top, and drizzle the tops with a bit more olive oil.

Bake for at least 75 minutes or until the tops are brown and crisp on top. If making ahead, remove from oven while it is still very light brown (about 1 hour). Allow to cool, cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate.  To reheat the next day, bake, covered for 30 minutes, then remove the cover and continue baking until the top is brown and crispy. 

Serve hot with applesauce on the side.

NOTE:   Onion-infused olive oil is a marvelous product.  To make it, saute an onion in olive oil, stirring frequently, over medium heat until totally transparent and just beginning to brown.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool until just slightly warm.  Add two cups of extra-virgin olive oil to the pan, cover and allow to sit for one hour.  Strain the olive oil to remove all the solids and store covered in a dark place until ready to use.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie (Really!)

Children hate the idea of “Meatless Monday.”pie

Truth be told, I’m not so crazy about it either. Butcher’s son, you know.

On the other hand, my wonderful life partner puts up with most of my foibles, so I figure the least I can do is humor her in her craving for “meatless Monday.”

I try all kinds of ways to deal with the concept—I’ve done risottos, pasta dishes, bean burritos, vegetable pot pie—and I haven’t even scratched the surface of the Moosewood empire, where meatless is a way of life.

So when my beloved handed me a recipe for vegetarian shepherd’s pie (which, I think, is an oxymoron—I mean, have you ever heard of a shepherd rounding up his—or her—lentils at the end of the day?

I mean, “Git along, little legume?”

Somehow it just doesn’t ring right.

On the other hand, I’ve made a bunch of shepherd’s pies over the last few weeks, and I think I’ve got the flavor profile down pretty well, and I have, after all, been making my shepherd’s pies from ground turkey (“Git along, little turkey?”), so why not vegetarian. I have been fairly successful making dishes using lentils of a variety of colors, and the recipe appeared to me to be reasonably open to experimentation, so Lentil Shepherd’s Pie it is.

Guess what?

It turned out to be really good. As most of you vegetarians will attest, lentils can be (a) healthful; (b) tasty; (c) brown; and (d) flexible. And pretty easy to work with, too, taking on the flavor of whatever seasonings one might be tempted to use.

I highly recommend this recipe, and I will actually make it again, amending it as I go to see what other interesting taste profiles I can come up with.

Here, then, is my version of Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie. Adapted from a recently posted recipe from Eating Well, I’ve changed it up some to suit my and my family’s taste buds, and while getting the children to eat it was somewhat of a challenge (getting my children to eat anything beyond mac-n-cheese is somewhat of a challenge), any families whose kids are open to this sort of thing will, I think, actually like this recipe a bunch.

Here it is:

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients:

1 ½ pounds Yukon Gold or Russet potatoes

½ cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons margarine or butter spread (I use Smart Balance)

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

¼ teaspoon fine-ground white pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Olive oil spray

1 large onion, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

½ cup baby peas

1 teaspoon fresh (or ½ teaspoon dried) thyme

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cup vegetable broth

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons tomato paste

½ cup red table wine

1 ½ cups cooked brown lentils

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Place the lentils in a small saucepan and cover with water, at least 1 inch over the lentils; bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Then turn off the heat and set aside.

Cut the potatoes into 1- to 2-inch cubes and place in a pot of boiling, salted water, turn the heat down to medium and cook until soft, about 20 minutes. Drain and return to the pot. Add the buttermilk and butter spread, mash with a potato masher and whip until smooth. Set aside.

While the potatoes are boiling, spray an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish with olive oil spray. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add the remaining olive oil, add the onion and carrots, and sauté until soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add the thyme, ½ teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of black pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and stir to combine. Add the broth and cook, stirring, until the sauce begins to thicken, about three minutes. Add the Worcestershire Sauce, tomato paste, and wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Drain the lentils and add, along with the peas, and stir to combine completely.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Spoon the lentil filling into the prepared baking dish and spread evenly. Top with the mashed potatoes, spread evenly, and draw lines into the potatoes with a fork to create ridges. Spray the top with olive oil spray and bake for 30 minutes. Then turn on the broiler and brown the top lightly, rotating once to brown evenly, 6-8 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Around the World in Eight Courses: Egypt, on the Way to the Suez Canal and India

We’ve come round the bend and into the Mediterranean Sea.shakshouka  We’re stopping in Alexandria, Egypt, on our way  through the canal to India.  We’ve been traveling by steamer all night, and are in need of a hearty late breakfast/early lunch meal that includes both lots of veggies and some protein, but not a heavy protein.  The answer is shakshouka.

The word comes either from the Berber word chakchouka, which means vegetable stew, or from the Hebrew leshakshek, which means shake.  Its origin is somewhat disputed; some think it is originally an Israeli dish, others insist its origin is Tunisia, and some of those think that it originated with Tunisian Jews.  Whatever the origin, it is highly popular throughout Mediterranean Africa, especially in Egypt. The upshot throughout the region is that it is sort of a shaken mixture.  That defines it quite well.

In any case, it is a mixture of fragrant spices, and  is served with an egg poached in the vegetable stew and cut-up pitas, to soak up the juices and the egg yolk.

And it is really tasty.  Here’s the recipe:

Shakshouka

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil
3 Anaheim chiles (or 4 or 5, if you like it spicy) stemmed, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 head of garlic, top trimmed off and roasted*
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed

1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes with juice, crushed
1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 eggs
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Warm pitas, for serving

Preparation:

*Roasted garlic: preheat the oven to 350.  Slice off the top of the garlic head, drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil over the exposed cloves; leave the head otherwise intact.  Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil and roast for 45 minutes; remove from oven, cool until warm but safe to touch.

Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add chiles and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic (squeeze the garlic from the skins), cumin, paprika, and fennel, and stir to mix well and heat throughout, about 2 more minutes.

Crush the tomatoes in a bowl by hand and add with the liquid to skillet along with 1/2 cup water; reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across sauce’s surface. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 5 minutes. Using a spoon, baste the whites of the eggs with tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk. Sprinkle with feta and parsley and serve with pitas, for dipping.

Thanks to Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen for the foundation of this recipe, with which I started, but then altered just a bit after trying several varieties.

Locally Grown French Mushroom Soup

Continuing our trip around the world with friends, soupwe next stop in Marseille, on the southeast coast of France, to where we have traveled from Spain by train.  There we encounter a small restaurant that has created a velvety-smooth mushroom soup that is dressed with a “salad” of ingredients also found in the soup.  It is not your mother’s mushroom soup, or anything like that concentrated product from the soup giant.  This soup has a sophisticated and complex flavor that is at the same time subtle and earthy, touched as it is by fresh raw mushrooms that bathe shortly in finished soup as you partake.  Try this one yourself.  It is simple and elegant.

The soup is a true French creation: it’s made with champignons de Paris, or what we know as plain white or button mushrooms, and it’s inspired by a soup from the Paris bistro, Les Papilles (whose name means taste buds). At the little restaurant, the soup comes to the table in a big tureen, and you’re encouraged to dip the ladle into it as often as you like.

At Les Papilles, shallow soup plates are brought to the table sans soup but with a small mushroom “salad”: thin slices of raw mushrooms seasoned with salt, pepper, chopped chives, and parsley and topped with a tiny bit of crème fraîche. When the hot soup is poured over the salad, the mushrooms cook just slightly.  You’ll get to enjoy that nice contrast between the cooked soup and the raw vegetable.

The name champignons de Paris is more honorific than correct these days. While the mushrooms did get their start near Paris — Louis XIV had them in the gardens at Versailles — they were found growing in the catacombs beneath Paris when construction for the metro began, today the mushrooms are ubiquitous in America, but they are grown all over Chester county right next to us here in Lancaster, and they are likely fresher here than almost anywhere else.  I believe we could just as easily call this Fresh and Local Mushroom Soup, as all the ingredients–right down to the butter and yogurt–can (and ought to be) locally sourced.

French Mushroom Soup

Ingredients:

For the soup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1½ large onions, coarsely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1½ pounds white mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed, and sliced
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 parsley sprigs
1 rosemary sprig
6 cups vegetable broth

2 tablespoons French cognac

For the “salad
6 large white mushrooms, wiped clean and trimmed
2 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Plain Greek yogurt, for serving

To make the soup: Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over low heat. Toss in the onions and garlic, season with salt and white pepper, and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add the mushrooms and the remaining tablespoon of butter, raise the heat to medium, and cook, continuing to stir, for another 3 minutes or so, until the mushrooms release their liquid. Increase the heat to high and cook until almost all of the liquid evaporates. Pour in the wine and let it boil until it, too, almost evaporates.

Toss the herbs into the pot, add the broth or water (and the bouillon cubes, if you’re using them), and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot almost completely, and cook at a gentle simmer for 20 minutes. Pull out the rosemary sprig (it will have lost its leaves).  Add the cognac.

Working in small batches in a blender or food processor, puree the soup until it is very smooth; or use an immersion blender. If you’re using a processor or an immersion blender, you probably won’t get a super-smooth soup. If you’d like, you can push the pureed soup through a strainer, but it’s really not necessary. Taste for salt and white pepper. Pour the soup back into the pot and heat it gently — it shouldn’t boil, but it should be very hot.

To make the salad and serve: Divide the mushrooms, scallions, parsley, and chives among six soup plates; season lightly with salt and white pepper. Ladle the soup into the bowls, and top each with a dollop of crème fraîche, if desired.

Serving
Arrange the salad in shallow bowls.  Bring the dressed bowls to the table and ladle the soup from a tureen or soup pot into the bowls.  Finish the soup with a spoonful of crème fraîche or plain Greek yogurt and sprinkle a bit of freshly chopped parsley over the top.

Storing
The soup can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days or packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months.

Some of the text for this entry and the recipe, which I have altered just a bit, come from a fine cookbook titled Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan.

Around the World in Eight Courses (Continued)

TAPAS!

Here are more wonderful recipes from ourtapas Around the World in Eight Courses dinner party ten nights ago.  These are three more of the tapas presentations on the platter.  Mini roasted peppers stuffed with herbs and goat cheese, a terrific  parsley and anchovy (that’s right! anchovy) dip that was served with slices of bell pepper, toasted pita chips, and an onion and potato torte that was cut into bite-sized pieces.  The surprise of the platter was the parsley dip, with the anchovies poached in a broth of milk and olive oil. Not salty, not offensive in any way, but rather very tasty and begging to be sampled twice.

Here, then are the recipes:

Peppers Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Ingredients:

8 ounces goat cheese

3 scallions, green parts only, roughly chopped

½ cup fresh mint, finely chopped

Red pepper flakes

Zest and juice of two lemons

12 mini red and yellow bell peppers

Preparation:

Prepare the filling an hour or two ahead.  Place goat cheese, scallions, mint, and red-pepper flakes in a bowl. Zest and juice lemons into the bowl, straining seeds. Mix until well combined.  Refrigerate until ready to fill the peppers.

Roast the peppers in a 350-degree oven, turning every five minutes, until they are blackened all over (alternately, roast them over a gas-stove flame, using tongs to keep them above the flames); then place them on a parchment-lined tray and cover with a dish towel until they are completely cool.  Peel the skins gently, trying not to damage the roasted peppers.

Spoon the filling into a plastic bag, squeeze the filling into a bottom corner of the bag, remove as much air from the bag as possible,  and twist the top of the bag.  This forms a small piping bag.  Cut a small piece of the bottom corner of the plastic bag, and fill each pepper with about 2 tablespoons of the goat cheese mixture. Place on a serving plate, and sprinkle with red-pepper flakes; garnish with spring onions if desired. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, about 1 hour.

Parsley-Anchovy Dip

Ingredients:

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup whole milk

1 head garlic, peeled and smashed

16 anchovies

2 bunches parsley heads

ground pepper

2-3 tsp. Lemon juice

Preparation:

In a small saucepan, bring olive oil, milk, garlic, and anchovy fillets to a simmer over medium; cook until garlic is tender, 8 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and add parsley. Pulse until smooth; season with pepper and lemon juice.

Onion and Potato Torte

Ingredients:

7 tbsp EVOO

1 medium onion, ½-inch rounds

3 Yukon golds, ¼-inch rounds

8 eggs

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 clove garlic

Chicory or endive

2 tbsp sherry vinegar

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 325.

Saute onions till golden, place in bowl. Repeat with potatos. Whisk together eggs, salt, and pepper. Add to onions and potatoes.

Heat pan with extra-virgin olive oil, add mixture and cook until edges begin to brown. Place in oven and bake, covered, until set, about 10 minutes. Remove top and broil until lightly browned.

Brush bread with EVOO and garlic, toast until golden.. Toss lettuce with vinegar, salt and pepper. Scatter over bread, cover with torte, cool. Serve at room temp.

 

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